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Despite popular belief, many cancers don't display obvious symptoms or cause pain until well advanced. Because early-stage cancer symptoms tend to be subtle, they can be mistaken for signs of other, less-threatening disease.

Some of the warning signs for cancer include:

  • A thickening of the breast or other body tissue
  • A development of a lump in the breast or another body part
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Difficulty upon swallowing
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Obvious changes in a wart or mole
  • A nagging cough or hoarseness
  • A wound that won't heal
  • Indigestion
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Persistent blood in the stool or urine

Some of these symptoms are specific to certain types of cancer – for example, trouble with urination for prostate cancer or flu-like symptoms for acute leukemia. Don't be afraid to discuss any unusual symptoms with your primary care physician – and know that diagnostic tests are available for most common cancers -- and an early diagnosis greatly improves the odds of surviving cancer.